Top of the news agenda this past week has of course been the US inauguration of President Donald Trump, and the subsequent Women’s Marches that took place around the world. Credit to some of the intelligent coverage coming out of traditionally “fashion” (not to mention “teen”) publications, above and beyond the mere commentary around what the new First Lady and First Daughter are wearing. A particular nod to Fashionista for deciding not to comment on the latter. Lots to read, support and get behind, and the fashion industry has the potential to be a big part of that in terms of equal rights for all.
Meanwhile, other big news to know about, includes a view on what UK prime minister, Theresa May’s Brexit speech means for fashion, as well as an inspirational keynote from Richard Branson at NRF Retail’s Big Show on entrepreneurialism in retail. Also check out our recent view on whether Twitter is still relevant for fashion brands, as well as below further insight on how the industry is using Whatsapp, what to expect from Pinterest, and yet more updates on the chatbot space.
The most inspiring moments from the speeches at the Women’s March on Washington [Vogue]
Decoding Theresa May’s Brexit speech and what it means for fashion [BoF]
Richard Branson: Retail brands must ‘be entrepreneurial’ to survive [Retail Dive]
Shoes of Prey and Indochino on mass customisation and the future of retail [NRF]
Bitter end to American Apparel as wind down accelerates [WWD]
Fashion house BCBG closing stores, restructuring [Retail Dive]
Fashion brands fear Trump’s trade policies will disrupt global production chains, with risk of tariffs squeezing profits [SCMP]
Couple that with persistently stagnant user growth, and it raises a real question mark over Twitter’s future. So what do fashion brands need to know in terms of whether they should or shouldn’t invest time and money in the platform in 2017?
Although phenomenally successful over the past decade, in recent years Twitter has fallen behind its peers. The main issue is flat user growth, which impacts negatively on revenue.
On average, Twitter had 317 million monthly active users in Q3 2016, up 3% year-on-year. This compares to Facebook’s 1.79 billion, up 16% yoy and Instagram’s 600 million, which is double that of 2014. Snapchat doesn’t disclose monthly figures, suggesting that its engagement is so high it prefers to talk about dailies. It has a reported 150 million daily active users, compared to Twitter’s estimated 136 million.
In terms of revenue, Twitter is therefore finding it particularly difficult to attract brand marketers to advertise on a platform with restricted growth (albeit its advertising revenue was up 6% year-on-year in Q3 2016). What’s perhaps more troubling for the long run in that vein, however, is a potential shift in the way the platform is used.
First for news?
Twitter has long been considered the go-to platform for breaking news – often reporting on stories ahead of mainstream media channels. One in five PR disasters even break on Twitter, according to marketing tool, Year Ahead. And Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey’s focus is indeed reportedly on the social media app as a global information news network.
As social media expert, Karinna Nobbs, explains: “Many customers use Twitter as a news platform, so with the right analytics, if it is right for your target, you should be on it.” She also suggests that fashion brands use Twitter for building relationships with journalists and publishers.
Yet, according to Paul Berry, founder and CEO of RebelMouse, even publishers are moving slowly away from the platform. He told Digiday: “Five, 10 years ago, there was a lot of emphasis on building Twitter followings, traffic. For new media companies, Twitter is the afterthought and the side job. It used to be one person on Facebook, one person on Twitter, and now it’s three people on Facebook and half a person on Twitter.”
Further stats from the same Digiday piece show that 59% of Twitter users do indeed get news on the service, third after Reddit and Facebook. But only 16% of adults in the US use Twitter in the first place, and only 9% of adults get news there. That compares to Facebook being used by 67% of U.S. adults, with 44% of US adults getting news there, according to Pew Research Center.
Twitter has been introducing new features in a bid to combat this, and both grow and retain engaged users. Included is its livestreaming service Periscope, and “Twitter Moments”, its storytelling feature enabling users to gather (and consume) tweets under themes, or indeed news stories. In truth, however, they still haven’t made much of an impact, while Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat continue to storm ahead – especially with live video.
Within the fashion industry specifically, there is reasonable usage of the platform nonetheless, especially during fashion weeks – arguably the industry’s most newsworthy occasions. 503,404 Tweets were tagged #LFW for spring/summer 2016, according to the British Fashion Council. But engagement is significantly higher on Instagram. For spring/summer 2017, Burberry for instance received 415,300 likes on Instagram compared to 28,750 likes and retweets on Twitter, according to Stylight. That trend continues for most other designers.
Speaking anonymously, one industry insider said: “Twitter has become the last, and at best the fourth social media channel I think about when thinking about our communications strategy [behind Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat]. I would argue Pinterest… and possibly even LinkedIn are more relevant to fashion and e-commerce today.”
Of course some fashion brands haven’t ever used Twitter at all. Christopher Kane for instance hasn’t posted a single tweet (though its reserved account has approximately 4,500 organic followers). By comparison the brand’s Instagram account has 226k followers with over 1,350 posts.
The fact is, the internet has shifted from being a text-based entity, to a visual and video one. While Twitter has attempted to keep up with this movement, for fashion brands particularly, other platforms have become more appealing and perceivably more suitable.
Another anonymous source explains: “Fashion brands have always thought visual-first, they were just previously restricted by what the social media channels enabled. When Instagram took off, they suddenly got their version of digital beauty – something that was in keeping with the aesthetic they were trying to portray and at huge scale. They’ve grown fast on that platform and engagement remains high, albeit with its own algorithmic challenges. The new flurry of live video options – on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat – all give them new means to provide insights, news and updates from the brand too, and importantly in quite a ‘cool’ way. It’s entirely possible they just don’t need Twitter anymore.”
That’s not to say everyone feels that way of course. One example of a brand that makes the best of what Twitter has to offer is Belstaff. Its global marketing manager, Melina Fenby, explains the brand’s current strategy includes using Twitter as “our news, events and information hub to grow brand loyalty”. She says the team uses Twitter for influencer engagement (motorsport and adventure figures resonate well with the Belstaff community) and event/PR activity (the Goodwood Festival of Speed content was particularly popular).
Outlining Belstaff’s Twitter strategy going forward, Fenby added: “The real focus for us is to generate meaningful engagement with our existing fans and relevant micro-communities.”
Championing customer service
Unsurprisingly where Twitter does otherwise resonate for retail fashion brands particularly is in the realm of customer service.
ASOS for instance has a dedicated Twitter account specifically for queries. @ASOS_Heretohelp is among the top 10% of help handles with an average response time of five minutes. It has over 180,000 followers of its own, against the main @ASOS account’s 1.01 million.
Others including Nike, Jack Threads and Lululemon are incredibly strong from a customer service perspective on the channel too. Overall, two-thirds of brands tracked by L2 use their Twitter accounts for customer service.
While the average fashion brand communicates with just 64 customers per month via Twitter posts, according to L2, Lululemon addresses the concerns of more than 900 customers each month and even provides personalised product recommendations. Other stand out accounts include Macy’s and Marks & Spencer, which both receive more than 10,000 Twitter mentions and communicate with more than 800 customers each month.
When customers are taking this route, they expect brands to respond quickly to mentions and queries, more so than anywhere else. This fits with the fact cloud-based social customer service provider, Conversocial, found over half of consumers (54.4%) prefer new messaging channels such as SMS, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and WhatsApp as their primary form of communication with brands compared to legacy channels such as email, phone, and web chat.
That’s not overly a surprise. But the truth is, much like storytelling and live news, nailing customer service is also becoming increasingly competitive from a platform side. Facebook Messenger has gained an enormous amount of ground throughout 2016 as one of the early leaders in the chatbot space for instance (behind Wechat in China). This is the introduction of artificial intelligence-enabled automated conversations through a chat interface, which for retailers is especially useful when applied to scalable customer service. Though still nascent, they’re expected to increasingly resonate with consumers.
Twitter therefore, has had to up its game in this space too. In November 2016, it launched bot-like features within direct messages for brands. Included are automated “welcome” responses, as well as “quick replies”, which let users choose from a series of pre-written sentences or prompts (like “what’s the status of my order”) to facilitate faster resolutions.
Cleverly, that also takes some of the weighty customer service conversations out of the feed, and into a private space instead, freeing up accounts to refocus on the storytelling piece Twitter is still aiming for. In that same vein, the company is also rolling out “curated profiles” to a handful of brands, in order to allow them to showcase the best of their content, including that of the visual and video type favoured by the fashion industry. Notably, Twitter is pushing this side of things far more heavily than it is the idea of conversions for retailers. It is actively phasing out its “buy” button for instance.
Sedge Beswick, managing director at SEEN Connects, and former head of social at ASOS, commented: “I still think [Twitter] plays a huge role from a customer care POV primarily – visual for Instagram, Facebook for innovation and Twitter can be the supporting platform where people know they can get timely, supportive and relevant customer care support […] especially if we get the bots right.”
Twitter isn’t going away just yet, but it’s got a lot of work to do if it wants to re-forge real relevance with the fashion industry. What does this mean in terms of how you should approach it? At this point in time, the answer is relatively dependent on the type of brand that you are – mass-market retailers, department stores and more niche, or specific, brands (like Lululemon), who have developed a level of customer service activity, will likely want to stick with the status quo, explore new features and continue using the platform as an opportunity to converse with consumers on a query-led basis while engagement is high. 900 happy customers, is still 900 happy customers. Same goes for just 64. But analyse the data in terms of what you really get out of it over time.
There’s also still something to be said for using Twitter with news in mind too, but be aware of the fact it’s less of a conversion tool and more of a PR one, and even that may well be only on a good day. Approach it from a content sharing point of view, but figure out within that what your followers actually respond to and adjust accordingly. Whether you spend any advertising budget alongside will make sense thereafter.
The simple truth is, if you’re much more of a visual brand, or indeed one already channeling your focus primarily through other platforms, you may want to keep it that way. For those hovering somewhere in the middle, it’s worthwhile maintaining your Twitter accounts, but doing so by doubling up on resource, rather than promoting anything completely unique, is probably wise.
Amazon, Google and Snapchat are the three top tech companies to look at for key stories over the past couple of weeks (and potentially the whole of 2016 in fact). From the launch of Amazon Go, which enables shoppers to just walk out of a shop while their phone handles payment, to the virtual reality “Window Wonderland” holiday tour Google has organised from a bevy of US stores – it’s all about more convenient as well as heightened experiential retail. Meanwhile, lots of brands are starting to experiment with Snapchat’s Spectacles too.
Also worth checking out from this past fortnight are a double-whammy of reports on free shipping and free returns, lots more about the uptake of chatbots, and a deep-dive on what the fashion world faces against the rise of extremism, populism and protectionism.
Thanks to Google, you can now take a VR tour of New York’s holiday window displays [Ad Week]
What Amazon Go means for the future of retail [AdAge]
“2016 has certainly been quite a year, so we hope our advert will make people smile,” says Craig Inglis, customer director at John Lewis on the launch of its much-awaited Christmas campaign.
And smile it does. Set to a cover of the song “One Day I’ll Fly Away” by Vaults, it tells the story of a little girl called Bridget who’s obsessed with bouncing, alongside her boxer dog, Buster, who likes to follow in her footsteps.
That’s not all however, #BustertheBoxer as the ad is called, sees all sorts of wildlife (two foxes, a badger, a squirrel, and a hedgehog) coming to life in the two-minute film as they take to the trampoline Bridget’s parents are giving her for Christmas, overnight. “Gifts that everyone will love,” is the message behind it.
“It really embraces a sense of fun and magic, reminding everyone what it feels to give the perfect gift at Christmas,” Inglis adds. It was once again created by advertising agency adam&eveDDB, and directed by Dougal Wilson, who was also behind 2011’s The Long Wait, 2012’s The Journey, and 2014’s Monty’s Christmas.
The direction of it isn’t a complete surprise, however, after teaser videos were run via Twitter for the ad on an account called @Bouncing2016 and using the hashtag #BounceBounce.
The campaign otherwise comes to life in the retailer’s Oxford Street flagship store where shoppers can enter the world of Buster and his friends via a virtual reality experience using Oculus Rift. There’s also a 360-film available using Google Cardboard in the same space, or via JohnLewis.com and YouTube (as below).
Furthermore, until midnight tonight, John Lewis has a sponsored Lens on Snapchat. In selfie mode, users can access a bespoke augmented reality design that transforms their faces into Boxer, while snow falls around them and hedgehogs and squirrels dart across the screen when they raise their eyebrows. The company is also using Snapchat’s geolocation tool, enabling customers visiting any of its 48 stores to add a themed filter to their pictures.
Until Sunday 13 November, customers will also be able to use bespoke Twitter stickers so they can personalise their own photos with Buster and his friends.
The campaign supports The Wildlife Trusts as its charity partner this year, and sees various stuffed animals and other merchandise related to Buster and his friends for sale. It will air on ITV at 9.15pm this evening and otherwise be found via YouTube and www.johnlewis.com/christmas-advert. Sky customers can also access a “making of” film and bespoke content about British Wildlife, presented by Wildlife TV presenter Patrick Aryee, via the On Demand homepage and Sky Go.
The big story on the web this week was of course about shopping coming to Instagram, but backing that idea even further comes the fact mobile browsing overtook desktop for the first time. That’s a huge deal for retailers.
Meanwhile also worth catching up on is an in-depth view on how Nike embraced sustainability, an exploration of what Gen Z and Millennials love and hate about social media, and an update on wearables from the world of Will.i.am. Don’t forget to also sign up for our Snapchat Masterclass taking place on November 22.
The Wall Street Journal has a deep-dive story on just what it takes to produce all the imagery for Farfetch’s listed boutiques. Every weekday, it posts an average of more than 1,000 new listings, each with at least five different photographs. Alongside that, perhaps appropriately, comes a new set of stats about Amazon, proving the fact it’s expected to surpass Macy’s to become the biggest apparel seller in the US next year.
Sustainability is also top of mind within the industry of late, with lots of ongoing thoughts around Everlane’s transparency claims and Patagonia’s slow fashion aims. Also worth reading this week are various Snapchat campaigns, not to mention some insights on the pros and cons of retail technology. Don’t forget to also sign up for our Snapchat Masterclass before the early bird rate ends on Oct 31.
Where luxury fashion is a high-speed, high-volume business – on site with the photography crew at Farfetch [WSJ]
Radical transparency: Are H&M and Zara actually more transparent than Everlane? [The Fashion Law]
Amazon is expected to surpass Macy’s to become the biggest apparel seller in the US next year [Business Insider]
Vine video-sharing app to be shut down by Twitter [The Guardian]
Alibaba takes Singles’ Day to global buyers, sellers [China Daily]
Sales surge at Kering’s Gucci, slip at sister brand [Yahoo]
American innovation: 5 questions with Shinola CMO Bridget Russo [BrandChannel]
How Outdoor Voices founder Tyler Haney plans to grow the brand into the next Nike [Fashionista]
In an age of fast fashion, Patagonia is going slow [Yahoo]
Following the screenshots: How Topshop is hacking Snapchat [Digiday]
Everlane’s social strategy: drive community engagement, not sales [Glossy]
Why Snapchat is winning out over Pinterest for River Island [The Drum]
H&M and Kenzo leverage iOS iMessage integration [Glossy]
REI’s ‘#OptOutside’ returns, and other brands have joined to help make it a new American tradition [Creativity]
Target channels Hamilton and The Nutcracker for holiday campaign aimed at Hispanic shoppers [AdWeek]
The role Blockchain will play in the fashion industry is our top story this week after it was documented from a storytelling and verification perspective at Shanghai Fashion Week by Babyghost and VeChain. The opportunity for the fashion industry at large to look to embrace it for anti-counterfeiting and provenance is brought to mind.
Meanwhile, the ongoing struggle of luxury brands has been strongly documented this past week, from the positive effect Brexit has had on the likes of Burberry to a new report from Bain/Altagamma on what’s ahead. That sits alongside insight from Luca Solca, head of luxury goods at BNP Exane Paribas, on the strategic threats of digital to luxury brands.
Also worth reading this week are predictions for the future of technology from Alibaba’s Jack Ma and an interview with Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts on turning stores into town squares. Don’t forget to also sign up for our Snapchat Masterclass before the early bird rate ends on Oct 31.
Hedi Slimane took to Twitter yesterday for a 22-post rant about his use of the YSL logo while in place at Saint Laurent, which he famously (and controversially) rebranded from Yves Saint Laurent during his tenure as creative director.
“FACT CHECKING / THERE HAVE BEEN INACCURATE STATEMENTS ON RECENT ARTICLES REGARDING HEDI AND THE USAGE OF THE YSL HISTORICAL LOGO,” he began, in all capitals. “FOR THE RECORD, THE USAGE OF THE CASSANDRE LOGO WAS ENTIRELY PART OF HEDI’S REFORM PROJECT FOR THE HOUSE FROM THE EARLY DAYS OF 2012 TO 2016.”
The tirade goes on to demonstrate all of the occasions he did indeed use the YSL logo throughout, including in store design, accessories, ad campaigns, fashion shows and more. “IN CONCLUSION, IT IS ACCURATE TO SAY THAT THE YSL ICONIC INITIALS WERE IN FACT CELEBRATED AND CHAMPIONED BY HEDI,” it ends.
So why the sudden rant?
As pointed out by Fashionista, this is the first time Slimane has returned to Twitter since closing his account down in 2012 following an open letter calling fashion critic Cathy Horyn a “schoolyard bully”.
This season she wrote a review of Anthony Vaccarello’s first collection for the brand, stating: “Apparently, Vaccarello has restored the Y, which had been excised by his predecessor, Hedi Slimane, as both a throwback to the brand’s original name and an attempt to modernize it. (The truth is, despite Slimane’s efforts, most people still say YSL.)”
The assumption is Slimane is reigniting the feud between the duo. WWD also notes it comes following reports he is seeking additional funds from former employer Kering, owner of Saint Laurent, to the tune of $2.2 million. A French commercial court previously ordered the company to pay him$13 million. He is also now reportedly looking for Kering to apply a partnership agreement giving him certain rights as a minority shareholder in the brand.
A round-up of everything you might have missed in fashion and technology news (and beyond) over the past fortnight or so. Read on for Alexander Wang’s views on Amazon, insight on how Kit and Ace overhauled its e-commerce, and detail on Tencent and L’Oréal’s zany branded content experiment in China…
Alexander Wang talks about the future of fashion – including Amazon (as pictured) [Racked]
On Instagram, Louis Vuitton’s resort show comes out on top [Fashionista]
Kenzo just released a Japanese all-girl biker gang film [Dazed]
How Kit and Ace overhauled its e-commerce [Glossy]
Selfridges unveils iOS app with ‘shoppable’ Instagram feed [Econsultancy]
Condé Nast partners with Gucci on branded content [The Industry]
Inside Tencent and L’Oréal’s zany branded content experiment in China [AdAge]